Friday, September 25, 2009

Winnipeg's Thin Air Festival


Image from Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg

Thanks to Charlene Diehl, festival director at Winnipeg's Thin Air Festival, I got to stay in my dad's hometown, Winnipeg, for a few nights and perform this week. I stayed at the Inn at the Forks where the Assiniboine and Red rivers meet. My hotel room overlooked the Oodena Celebration Circle (wow) and also the Winnipeg Children's Museum, which used to be the main stables for the CNR back in the day when my great grandfather worked there as a janitor. The road outside the hotel is paved with the same stones that were there a hundred years ago. My great grandfather would have walked over those stones every day to get to work. It was pretty weird to sit in the hotel lounge with an interviewer with those stones and stables just outside. It gave me the same creepy feeling as sitting in the great hall at the Banff Springs Hotel. The great hall at the Banff Springs overlooks an old quarry site at Tunnel Mountain where Ukrainian prisoners of war quarried stone during WWI for the reconstruction of the hotel. The prisoners made 25 cents a day; my champagne cocktail cost $16. 

I didn't get to see a lot of the festival authors perform while I was in Winnipeg since the festival wranglers kept me really hopping, but I did get to see the headliners on opening night.  Lauren Kirshner read wonderfully from her first novel Where We Have to Go. She was dry, funny, and nervous as heck, which is always delightful, and I bought her novel straight away at the intermission. Jon Paul Fiorentino killed with a reading from his first novel Stripmalling and made me laugh so hard the author actually heckled me from the stage. Rhea Tregebov, my date, laughed so hard she almost choked on her chewing gum. I thought I'd have to give her the Heimlich. On a very different note, my favorite Maple Ridge boy, Gregory Scofield silenced the house with poems from his kipocihk├ón: Poems New and Selected and Bonnie Burnard made Rhea go for the Kleenex. Burnard read from her new novel Suddenly. I was especially impressed with the way she writes so tenderly and straightforwardly about sex. It was a great reading.

Special thanks to Tavia Palmer who pointed me in the right direction and Michael Van Rooy who got me there. Thanks to you, I was able to chill out often enough to experience  My Winnipeg. It was all over the place.